by David Shefter USGA
You could say it is a dream week for Pat Perez. Perez grew up in San Diego and began working at Torrey Pines at 13. He remained an employee through high school, picking up range balls, putting away carts and cleaning the carts in exchange for a few bucks and getting all the free golf and range balls he could muster. During the summer and holidays, Torrey Pines basically became a second home. His father, Tony, has been the starter for the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines for 15 years and Pat says he'll continue to do it as long as his vocal chords stay healthy.
Pat even occassionally slept in his car to obtain a precious early morning starting time. He would get his number, get in a few hours of sleep, and then head to the restaurant for coffee before playing.
In 1993, he won the annual Junior World tournament held every July at Torrey Pines, beating the likes of Tiger Woods and fellow San Diegoean Charley Hoffman.
Perez, competing in his fourth U.S. Open, is still looking for his first PGA Tour victory. Perhaps it will come in San Diego this week. On Tuesday night, he will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Padres/Dodgers game at PETCO Field.
During sectional qualifying in Columbus, Ohio, June 2, Perez made a late charge, holing a 25-footer on the last hole to easily garner one of the 23 spots. "I couldn't have been any happier," he said during a news conference Monday at Torrey Pines.
Had he not qualified, Perez likely would be home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He said he would not have turned on his television to watch the action, but rather found a secluded spot with his boat on a lake. But Perez didn't need a Plan B for Open week. He's here and very happy to be part of the festivities.